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Lady in the Mist
by Mandy Doerr

The thick mist swirl around me,
Shrouding the path from my view.
Faint lights prance before me.
I hestitate, unsure of their intentions.

The lone melody of a flute calls
From somewhere to my left.
I turn to find only dancing swirls
Of carbon black and charcoal grey.

I look to the right and behind
For other signs of animation,
But there is nothing there
To suggest a destination.

I gently prod the ground around me
With a slipper clad foot to see
If I can discern a pounded trail,
But find only loose gravel underneath.

I bite back my tears of indecision
And resist the impulse to sit down.
I can't stay here forever lost -
I must choose a path or make one.

I turn to the flute's melody
And walk slowly towards it -
Making each step firm before
I advance to the next.

The thick mist envelopes me -
Coldly caressing my skin.
I cannot even see my own hand,
As I creep closer to flute player.

Closer and closer, I carefully step,
As the sounds of a crackling fire
Adds counterpoint to the melody.
There is only a faint glow before me.

Suddenly the music stops
And I freeze in terror,
Wondering what went wrong,
Yet still the fire crackles.

I swallow the fear in my throat
And walk towards the warm glow,
Hoping that I will not find
The claws of death when I get there.

Finally, I feel the fire's warmth
And I step to the firepit's edge.
The mist is still thick around me,
But I can see the flash of blade metal.

The wind begins to howl around us
As I face the readied warrior form.
Totally vulnerable I stand before him,
Waiting for him to decide my fate.

He steps closer, his sword to my neck -
Searching me for some form of danger.
In the fire's inconstant light,
I can only vaguely see his face.

"What type of phantom are you?" he asks.
I searched his eyes for answers
And find only wary distrust.
"I am real," my whispered reply.

Slowly, he lowers his weapon
And caresses my face in his palm.
I dare not move for fear of what
He may have planned for me.

"You seem real enough," he says,
As he gently takes my hand
And sits me on a cold rock,
Near the fire's crackling edge.

"Have you eaten lately?" he asks.
I shake my head,
Unsure of time's passage.
He hands me some travel bread.

"Where are we?" I timidly ask.
"I do not how I came here.
I was walking down a darken hall
And found myself surrounded by mist."

The warrior shakes his head.
"I was in the midst of battle
When this accursed fog rolled in
And swept away my troops."

"What shall we do now?" I ask,
As I finish eating my piece of bread.
"We shall take turns sleeping," he says.
"Then, rested, we will find a way out."

He seems so much more tired than I,
So I take the first watch -
Too petite to raise his sword,
I promise to sound alarm at danger.

Huddled near the fire,
I scan the misty swirls
To find anything more worrisome
Than my active imagination.

When I think he will never wake,
The warrior arises from his slumber
And stretches his stiffened limbs
As he urges his senses to life.

He hands me his thick cloak
To wrap around my tired body.
I curl up small within it
To take my chance at sleep.

When I awake, the mist has thinned,
But it still has not retreated.
I yawn and stretch and yawn,
Trying to convince myself to stand.

From his meager rations, I eat
And drink a little for breakfast.
I start to remove his cloak,
But he stops me and won't take it back.

Assured that I am ready,
He chooses a direction
Into the ever present mist
And we march forward.

We travel for several hours
Before we come across a rocky ridge.
We follow along it, hoping
It will lead somewhere.

Finally, there is a break in the ridge
And we stumble through it,
Into the faint traces of sunlight
Still hidden behind the clouds.

A chasm opens hungerly before us,
Threatening to swallow us whole.
Looking down its length,
We find an odd wooden structure.

Closer examination reveals
A drawbridge operated by counterweights,
Waiting for someone to pull a rope
And extend it across the void.

The sounds of battle are softly heard
From the chasm's opposite side.
A shaft of sunlight falls upon a standard
And the warrior freezes in place.

"It's your troops on the other side,"
I observe with whispered voice.
He nods, comfirming my guess,
And turns to operate the bridge.

But the bridge only comes down halfway -
The counterweights are too light.
I watch his growing frustration
As the warrior tries to force the bridge down.

Quietly, I climb onto a counterweight,
Giving it the extra mass needed
To lower the wooden bridge
Across the deep chasm.

He hesitates, unwilling to leave me alone,
But I tell him not to worry for me.
His duty is to his men
And they need their leader.

He tells me to wait there,
So he can return to retrieve me.
I watch him re-enter the battle
And rally his tired troops.

Then I slip off the counterweight
And go back through the ridge.
For my own duty calls to me,
As I disappear into the mists . . .


Copyright © 1998, Amanda D. Doerr